Gritty biblical epic breaks the mold
Russell Crowe almost always delivers, especially when he doesn’t insist on singing in his films. His latest project, Darren Aronofsky’s gritty “Noah,” is a high-concept biblical epic cum art flick that breaks the mold of the cookie-cutter religious movies we grew up with.
Aronofsky (“The Black Swan”) makes the pivotal stories of Adam and Eve and their sons, Cain, Abel and Seth—as well as the other Bible characters that came after them—as accessible as the irresistible human-interest stories we enjoy reposting on Facebook.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE have prohibited the screening of “Noah” on religious grounds—and we understand why. Do its revisionist bits compromise Catholic sensibilities and beliefs? Not really.
The film is neither as polarizing as Martin Scorsese’s “Last Temptation of Christ” nor as graphic as Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” And it isn’t as tonally confrontational as Colm Toibin’s otherwise smartly imagined play, “Testament of Mary,” about an angry Blessed Virgin Mary, portrayed onstage by the fearless Fiona Shaw, and in the audio-book version by the sublime Meryl Streep (who comes off with much more vulnerability).
In fact, the gorgeously photographed production enriches our faith by finding a plausible middle ground between God’s occasional moments of perceived spitefulness in the Old Testament and His more forgiving nature in the New Testament—as exemplified by the story of Noah and how he “rules” his acquiescent family. His wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and their three sons, Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth) and Japheth (Leo Carroll), respect his authority without question or opposition.
We’re no Bible expert, but we grew up reading its countless tales of sin, moral squalor and salvation—and, as a theater actor, a great chunk of our body of work includes religious productions that have made us more appreciative of people’s sacrifices in the name of faith.
After the murder of Abel, Cain flees to the East, where he is protected by a band of fallen angels called The Watchers. There, Cain’s wickedness spreads like wildfire. Meanwhile, Seth is left with the task of protecting what is left of the Garden of Eden.
Seth’s last descendant, Noah, is gifted with a magical seed from whose grown gopher trees he must build the ark that would protect the animals (calmed down by incense) and Noah’s family from the apocalyptic flood that would wipe out all the planet’s shameless and remorseless sinners, before the ark lands on Mount Ararat.
But, Noah’s difficult mission takes a toll on his loved ones, who find themselves torn between familial devotion and their will to survive—especially after Noah reveals his intention of “sacrificing” the unborn twins Shem and his wife, Ila (Emma Watson), are expecting if they turn out to be—female!
Would you do the same for your faith? —An intriguingly Solomonic dilemma!
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